Sagan close to first victory as the world champion in Abu Dhabi Tour sprint

World champion welcomes cooler conditions for stage 2

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) went close to taking his first victory in the rainbow at the Abu Dhabi Tour but was beaten on the line at the end of the second stage by Elia Viviani (Team Sky).

Sagan opened up his sprint early after a good lead out from his Tinkoff-Saxo teammates in the final two kilometres. The final corner shuffled the sprinters with 500 metres to go but Sagan was perfectly placed and surged down the middle of the road. Viviani was sat in fourth place and jumped on Sagan’s wheel before moving past him to hit the line first.

Sagan thanked all his teammates as he tried to cool down after the stage. He was not angry about defeat and praised Viviani on his win. The two were teammates at Cannondale between 2010 and 2014.

"I was there but it’s the last race and it was an easy day. I didn’t have great legs," Sagan said immediately after the finish before heading back to the podium to pull on the best young rider white jersey over his rainbow jersey.

"I’m happy for Elia Viviani, he’s a former teammate. He’s a pure sprinter, so it’s normal that he wins. He’s good, Elia is very good and has won lots of good races."

After suffering in the heat on stage 1, Sagan swapped his black, rainbow-striped Specialized Evade helmet for a white standard shaped Prevail model. It seemed to help him stay cooler during the stage. The temperatures were four or five degrees centigrade cooler today, staying close to 35C for much of the stage. Riders needed plenty of bottles during the stage but conditions where no worse than at this year’s Tour de France or Vuelta a Espana.

"Today was much better," Sagan said. "It was also a shorter stage, which makes it better in these conditions. I think it was a nice day."

Saturday’s third stage ends with an 11km climb to the finish in Jebel Hafeet. It is unlikely to suit Sagan but he jokingly suggested he could step up and win after finishing third and second in the opening two stages of the Abu Dhabi Tour.

"Have I got a chance on Sunday? Maybe even tomorrow no?" he said. "I’m going well in the mountains… We’ll see."

In truth, Sagan will probably try to win his first race in the world champion’s rainbow jersey at the end of the fourth and final stage on the Yas Marina Formula One circuit. However, he will be up against pure sprinter such as Viviani, stage 1 winner Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge).

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